July 7, 2015
Last Wednesday, three-year-old Scott Talbert was struck by a car while crossing the intersection of Semmes Avenue and 27th Street with his parents.
Thankfully, the toddler survived this harrowing ordeal and is expected to make a full recovery. NBC12 reports that little Scott is confined to a wheelchair with a broken leg, which will require additional surgeries to treat.
Since the accident, Richmond Police have declined to charge the driver of the vehicle that struck Scott, after witnesses reported that the three-year-old ran out into traffic. Scott’s parents, however, insist they were holding little Scott’s hand at the time of the accident. According to NBC 12, the Talbert family plans to hire an attorney to evaluate the situation.
Though the driver was not criminally charged in this case, the Talbert’s may be able to hold the driver civilly accountable. This is because the American legal system is generally divided into two categories – criminal law and civil law.
What happened to little Scott can be considered both a criminal act and a tortious act – criminal reckless driving on the one hand, the civil tort of negligence on the other. Just because the driver was not determined to be criminally culpable does not mean that the driver can escape civil liability, if proven.
The salient distinction between crimes and torts lies in the respective purpose of each branch of law – criminal law enables society to punish and/or deter morally deviant behavior, while civil law exists to provide compensation to the injured.
As such, civil law relates to disputes between private parties and/or negligent acts that cause harm to others, whereas criminal cases are filed by the government and relate to the punishment of criminal offenses. In civil decisions, defendants can be found liable or not liable, while criminal defendants are convicted if guilty and acquitted if innocent.
Perhaps the most critical difference between the two areas of law is the standard of proof. Considerably more evidence is needed to obtain a criminal conviction – prosecutors must demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused actually committed the crime in question. Conversely, civil cases only require a preponderance of the evidence – that it is more likely than not that the defendant caused harm or injury.
If you or a loved one has questions about pursuing a civil claim, even where no criminal charges are brought, the experienced personal injury attorneys at ReidGoodwin are here to help. Call our office today to schedule a legal evaluation.